There’s a really famous ad for thorazine, a drug that came out in the fifties and was the first effective antipsychotic.
Less well-known are all the other weird, wonderful and creepy psychiatric ads from the past century.
I was able to find a journal that had an archive of all its ads from the 1970s and a tiny slice of the 60s (no luck getting before then) and thought I’d share some of my favorites and what I learned.
ADHD, formerly ADD, was even more formerly MBD for Minimal Brain Dysfunction. This ad from the late ’70s shows there’s already a gray line between ADHD and normal mischeviousness, and Ritalin is already the preferred treatment (and has been since the early sixties).
Following in thorazine’s footsteps of including giant scary eyes in psychiatric ads. This is going to be a recurring theme.
More minimal brain dysfunction. “Cylert (pemoline) will not in itself “enhance learning” or resolve difficult behavioral problems. But it can increase attention span in the hyperkinetic child and reduce the impulsivity that often interferes with the learning process”.
The Goodenough-Harris Draw A Person Test has since been found (contra nominative determinism) to correlate only very weakly with real IQ tests for preschoolers. It has thus fallen out of favor, which is too bad as it led to some very cute scientific papers
Anyway, I guess we’re supposed to be excited that Cylert can make kids sit still enough to add stripes to a guy’s shirt. I’m going to hold out until they can make them not have weird nets for shoes.
Side effects of Cylert® may include holding your arms rigidly straight out to the sides all the time like you’re being crucified or something.
I was talking with Chris H and a few other people a couple of posts back about how pharmacotherapy used to be viewed (at least officially) as an adjunct for talk therapy. This ad is a good demonstration: “Whatever other therapeutic facilities have been developed, the psychiatrist’s office still represents the setting in which the psychoanalytic process recognizes its fullest potential. Frequently, however, an antidepressant must be employed to foster a working therapeutic relationship. With effective symptomatic relief often provided by ELAVIL, depressed patients may be able to concentrate on underlying factors instead of somatic manifestations.”
I wonder to what degree this was something you had to say to be viewed as a responsible psychiatrist back then: “Oh yeah, obviously it’s the Freudian psychoanalysis that’s really important, but maybe some of these drugs can, well, sort of help a little so we can get to Freudian psychoanalysis faster.” And to what degree everyone was in on the charade but didn’t want to torpedo their reputations by departing from it.
Another ad following in Thorazine’s footsteps of “make antipsychotic ads as creepy and psychotic-looking as possible.”
A couple days ago I asked my boss what the pharmacological differences between Haldol and [several similar drugs] were. He said there were no important differences at all. I asked him why, if that were so, everyone uses Haldol and almost no one uses any of the others. He said it was because Haldol had a better advertising campaign back in the day – which is what led me to look at old psychiatric ads in the first place.
So if any of you are in the public relations field, remember: melting faces sells.
We’re not saying you should slip very powerful drugs into in your patient’s drink without their knowledge. We’re just saying if you do, do it with Haldol®!
My impression is that this used to be a lot more common, but still goes on in certain situations, especially with the demented elderly.
In Soviet Russia, bird cages you! But if bird cages you, and you not in Soviet Russia, is extremely worrying sign. Should seek medical help immediately.
Another “we’re only using drugs for between the psychotherapeutic interviews” ad.
Dexamyl is a combination of amphetamine and a barbituate. Apparently at one time, giving people a really strong addictive upper and a really strong addictive downer together was considered such a good idea that it was advertised in psychiatric journals – and commonly used to perk up tired housewives.
My instict would be that the upper and downer would cancel out, leaving people about how they were before except with a host of terrible side effects. But when I Google it I get a lot of people who said the barbituate cancelled out the side effects of the amphetamine and they felt great on Dexamyl and it is their greatest regret in life that it is no longer available. So maybe my instincts are wrong and we should all be taking amphetamines mixed with barbituates all the time.
According to Wikipedia, UK PM Anthony Eden was on Dexamyl when he screwed up the Suez Crisis, which doesn’t surprise me at all.
People with tortoise shells inside bigger tortoise shells. Eyes growing on thorny stalks of grass. Lips bursting forth from the earth. Some kind of weird spectral Death hanging out in the background. Sure, the name of the drug involved is so small I can’t read it, but making it any bigger would have ruined the artistic vision.
Also, you really need to stop with all the eyes in your antipsychotic ads.
NO I DIDN’T MEAN IT LIKE THAT! EYES WHERE THERE SHOULD BE EYES! NO EYES WHERE THERE SHOULDN’T BE EYES! OKAY?
Ah, screw it, close enough.
Is…is that a syllepsis? Did you just include a syllepsis in a psychiatric ad? Cooooooool.
Photography puns age about as well as…well, as the biogenic amine hypothesis of depression.
This is a nice ad. It makes me want to take Sinequan. Why can’t the Navane ads be more like this one?
Side effects of Loxitane® may include infuriating vagueness.
NO YOU FOOL DON’T LET THE BIRD OUT OF THE CAGE NOW IT’S GOING TO PUT YOU IN THE CAGE AND YOU WILL NEED NAVANE®.
Prolixin is one of the drugs that is very similar to Haldol but never caught on because of poor advertising. The moral of the story is – doves are out, melting faces are in.
Release her from severe anxiety. Then she can open up to you. You ask her how she’s doing. She smiles bashfully, places a hand on your knee. Should you? Shouldn’t you? You clasp her hand. Everything’s going to be all right, you tell her.
‘This may be a little forward’, she asks, ‘but would you ever date a patient? You know, if the right one came along?’ ‘I’m married’, you tell her. ‘Oh!’ she says, horrified, and her mouth forms this adorable little O shape ‘I didn’t mean –‘. You cut her off. ‘But my wife isn’t here’ you say, and lean in, kissing her on the lips. She leans into your mouth passionately. You grab a breast. Her hand reaches for your crotch.
‘We shouldn’t,’ she says, suddenly. ‘We should,’ you say. ‘Run away with me, and we’ll leave your severe anxiety far behind’. ‘Where would we go?’ she asks. ‘I don’t know,’ you say. ‘France? Venice? Anywhere but here.’ She kisses you again. ‘Anywhere,’ she repeats, ‘just as long as I can bring my Serax.’
Side effects of Serax® (oxazepam) may include marital strain, divorce, unintended pregnancy, and gonorrhea.
Is…is that guy writing Finnegan’s Wake?
Serentil was withdrawn a couple of years ago after it was found to cause dangerous cardiac side effects.
I have no idea who that guy is, but screw him.
I wonder if I can trace some kind of evolution here from “drugs will get your patients ready for psychotherapy” to “drugs will help your patients who are refractory to psychotherapy”.
This was how we had to represent people’s thoughts before we had Photoshop’s “blur edges” filter. Just a big square stuck in the middle of their head.
For some reason I can’t imagine any modern ad using the name “George Harris”. I don’t know if it’s just that they wouldn’t use any name, or that they wouldn’t use one that aggressively normal-sounding.
This ad seems to be going for “mysteriously creepy but hard to put your finger on why”. But that “…with good reason” definitely doesn’t help.
I knew something was missing from my life!
They rewrote it to get rid of the syllepsis! 🙁 🙁 🙁 Why would you do that?